Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cycling Deaths are Up

I regularly receive an email newsletter from the American Bicyclists League (ABL). In the lastest issue, they say cycling deaths increased in 2005 according to a NHTSA report (this links to a PDF).

The most interesting thing to me about the NHTSA numbers are that deaths and injuries of non-occupants (this is their term) increased while deaths and injuries of vehicle occupants decreased.

ABL says the change is due to distracted vehicle drivers. The NHTSA report offers no opinions, just the facts. My initial thought is that cell phones have something to do with this. But the more I think about it, the less sure I am. If cell phones are distracting drivers, then wouldn't all categories see an increase in deaths and injuries? I'm sure it's not so simple.

Anyway, as I paged through the report, I found something interesting on every page. I imagine we've already seen some of the statistics in news stories, but it's much more informative to see the numbers for yourself instead of a filtered version in the news.

Why do you think non-occupant deaths are up?


Frostbike said...

Just an initial guess, but perhaps occupant deaths aren't up because auto safety measures (for occupants, natch) are improving. Think about how many cars now have side impact airbags and other equipment standard.

rigtenzin said...

That makes sense.

We could get a better idea of whether this is the case or not by looking at raw numbers of accidents instead of just deaths and injuries. I'll look at the report again.

Jon said...

There might also simply be more "non-occupants" on the road.

Addressing whether drivers are more distracted can't really be done with the given data. An overall breakdown of vehicle crashes by type might indicate if auto crashes are increasing at a rate higher than normal or higher than rates of vehicles that don't encourage taking one hand off the controls to talk on the phone or eat a burger.

Sophzilla said...

There does seem to be many more bikers than before. I wonder how much the girth (especially SUVs) of vehicles has to do with the numbers. You don't have a chance with one of those even if you're in a car!

And maybe I'm just being cynical, but it seems like drivers are getting more and more ill mannered. That can't help things.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the use of cell phones and other distractions has a disproportionately large effect on "non-occupants" in places where vehicle speeds are low enough that "occupants" aren't likely to be killed. I am basing this hypothesis on the number of distracted drivers I see on city streets, where a 25 mph collision might kill a cylist or pedestrian, but it likely wouldn't kill the driver. On freeways, where speeds are higher (and there are no cyclists or pedestrians), it is probably safer to be talking on the phone, since the road is wide and straight and everybody is moving in the same direction at roughly the same speed.

rigtenzin said...

I looked over the report again and did not find number of crashes, regardless of injury type.

I'll look at some insurance industry sites, that's their area.

Eclectchick said...

I have no idea why occupant deaths aren't up. An example of why:

Yesterday a.m., as I headed to work on 35W Northbound from dropping me mum off at the airport, I got a wicked shot of adrenaline. Two cars decided to merge into the same little space in my lane RIGHT ahead of me. One of the drivers, of course, you knew this didn't you, yes - ON THE CELL PHONE.

I'm sick to death of seeing all sorts of hairbrained crap from people on cell phones. Just from this kind of behaviour alone, you'd think the numbers would be up.

Sorry. Ranting. Done now.

Sophzilla said...

Once I was behind a guy in a big truck with a "shut up and drive sticker" pasted on the back (the truck, not him). As I got a little closer -- not too close -- I noticed that he's shaving. I kid you not.

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